tv Larry King Live CNN September 8, 2010 12:00am-1:00am EDT
embarrassment, and will say take it outside. >> wow! >> if they calm down, they will be allowed back in. but how long before a parent punches a restaurant employee? >> exactly. i'm always worried about restaurants that are called olde, o-l-d-e. >> olde and salty. olde i can live with. salty, i'll pass. >> isha, have a good night. isha, thanks. that's it for "360." "larry king live" starts right now. see you tomorrow night. >> larry: tonight, the case of the west memphis three. young men convicted of brutally murdering three little boys. 'decade and a half later, celebrities fight to free them. pearl jam's eddie vedder. >> if you educate yourself on the case, i think you find out they are truly innocent.
>> larry: the dixie chicks' natalie maines and actor johnny depp speak out in their defense. >> someone is going to do something. >> larry: do they know something the jury didn't? find out next on "larry king live." >> larry: joining us from little rock, arkansas, eddie vedder, lead vocalist and guitarist for pearl jam, natalie maines, the lead vocalist for the dixie chicks and lorri echols, wife of damien echols, one of the west memphis three convicted of murdering three little boys. echols was interviewed on this program a while back. married lorri in a prison
ceremony. and reardon, the lawyer for damien e krchlt playmates, were found beaten to death, naked and bound in shallow water. one of the boys was dismembered. >> damien, any comment about the story? >> did you do it? >> reporter: police arrested three teenagers, including an alleged devil-worshipping ringleader named damien echols. at trial prosecutors used echols' own words from his bizarre writings to convince the jury that the murders were part of a satanic ritual. >> "thirsty for blood and the terror of mortal men. look favorably on my sacrifice." >> reporter: echols and 16-year-old jason baldwin denied involvement. but 17-year-old jessie misskelley confessed, telling authorities on three separate
occasions they killed the boys after a chance encounter in the woods. misskelley, who defense attorneys claim has a low i.q., now says the confessions were coerced. despite a lack of significant evidence linking the teens to the crime, all three were found guilty. echols was sentenced to death. >> we, the jury, find damien echols guilty of capital murder in the -- >> reporter: questions about whether justice was served has loomed in this case since the verdicts. the hbo documentary "paradise lost" gave the case worldwide attention, painting the trial as a rush to judgment fueled by satanic fear. >> west memphis is pretty much, like, second salem. because everything that happens there, every crime, no matter what it is, it's blamed on satanism. >> reporter: in 2007, defense attorneys announced they had new dna evidence that shows no trace of echols or the other defendants at the crime scene. even some of the victims' relatives, who initially agreed
with the verdicts -- >> i believe they did it. i would. i believe i'd try to kill them too. >> reporter: -- now think the men in jail are innocent. >> i would like to see another trial. give them a fair trial. present the evidence that really wasn't presented in the other trials. and if they're guilty, so be it. that's where they stay. but if they're not, god, don't put somebody to death because -- you know, oops. >> reporter: in 2008 echols' motion for a retrial was denied. the arkansas supreme court will now hear the case for a retrial later this month. despite the huge outpouring of support, not everybody believes there's been a mistake. in fact, some of the family members still believe that echols, who's here on arkansas's death row, and the other two, who are serving life sentence, got exactly what they deserved. ♪ ♪ you are the hole in my >> reporter: as the voices for justice rally saturday in little
rock showed, the public, media and celebrity attention in this case is far from over. ♪ i am the aching in your heart ♪ >> larry: what got you involved, eddie? >> almost 16 years ago, i believe, i saw the documentary "paradise lost" that was on hbo. i got involved in the case, thinking that there was maybe some way i could make a difference. i had no idea that 17 years later we'd even be at this point. but certainly had no idea that it would have taken this long. but we are in a good spot now. and we've got evidence that -- even in the last two, three years that we believe will exonerate these kids. and we're just asking -- we're doing this thing now just to bring notoriety back to the case and really impress upon the
arkansas state supreme court that we get a fair -- a fair trial and a good look -- good careful look at this evidence that has been -- this case that has been so carefully prepared. >> larry: all of these guests, by the way, in little rock for a rally. it's called the voices for justice rally in support of the three boys. natalie maines, what got you involved? >> same as eddie, i saw the documentaries and i was pretty late to the party and -- in seeing those. but it was about five, six years ago. and right after i saw the second documentary i got online to see what had gone on in the case and assumed that the boys were free and everything was okay. and was very saddened and angry to see that they were still in
prison, and damien especially on death row. and so i got online and got on the website and donated some money to the cause. and lorri e-mailed me back and we've been going ever since. >> larry: eddie, are you convinced of their innocence? is it a question of it's not proven? what are your feelings about the matter? >> you know, i have to be honest, and out of respect for -- you know, this is a tragic crime. and there was three young kids killed. and i really wanted to be sensitive to the crime that was committed and the victims and their families. and for years, you know, it took years of educating myself and -- and reading and even helping fund new discoveries that
allowed me to have what now i feel is 100% belief in their innocence. and at one point i had to look them in the eye and ask them straight ahead. and i was completely satisfied with his answer. and now, you know, even in the last four years, now we've really got more evidence that -- that now we really -- with conviction we can say that without a doubt these young men don't deserve to be there and we don't want -- we want the people of arkansas to also open their hearts after this long and realize that -- please allow this trial to be seen fairly and please allow the evidence to come out, and please open your heart to just question one more time whether that was the right conviction 16 years ago. because if you educate yourself on the case, i think you'd find out that they are truly innocent. >> larry: natalie, i'm going to
ask the same of you. are you convinced that these three boys did not do this crime? >> absolutely. and i think it's also important to remember in our justice system that you are supposed to prove someone did a crime, you know, beyond a reasonable doubt, and there is zero proof. there's just zero proof. and so i absolutely believe in their innocence. >> larry: dennis, how strong a case is this? and if it's so strong, why haven't they thrown it out in view of the fact that the dna evidence never links the boys to the scene? >> well, larry, almost all of the focus and concentration and resources that have permitted the discovery of new evidence
came after these three boys had been tried with court-appointed lawyers who were given virtually no resources, no experts, no ability to investigate, had been convicted and had their sentences affirmed on appeal. and if you know anything about our justice system, it's difficult to overcome a serious charge. if you've been tried and convicted, it is virtually impossible to win your case on appeal. but once your direct appeal is over, as it was in the arkansas supreme court, the legal system really assumes that there can be no validity for your -- for a further appeal or challenge. >> larry: but dennis, the innocence project -- i know the folks out in new york -- they've gotten almost 300 guys released from death row based on dna evidence who were convicted in courts of law. >> absolutely. absolutely.
and if you look at those, tragically, 17 years served, 20 years served, 25 years served. those exonerations are both a proof of why we need dna statutes and an ability to attack convictions even after appeal, and yet they're also proof of how difficult and how long it can be to overturn a conviction of someone who's completely innocent. >> larry: lots of twists and turns in this story. we'll keep sorting them out when we come back. >> i knew from when i was real small that people were going to know who i was. i always had that feeling. i just never knew how they were going to learn. i kind of enjoy it because now, even after i die, people are going to remember me forever. they're going to talk about me for years. people in west memphis will tell
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>> larry: did you regard it -- well, i don't know if strange is the right word. that someone would want to marry you who can't co-habit with you? >> i can understand how a lot of people would maybe think that that is odd. but we love each other. she is my life. and i'm hers. >> larry: all right, lorri. how did you come to get involved in this case and get so involved that you meet and marry one of the three men involved? >> well, i saw the documentary "paradise lost." i was living in new york city and saw it at one of the first screenings, actually. and was so taken by -- something was dreadfully wrong.
and i just -- i had -- just felt a kinship with damien. there was something in his spirit and his intellect and just the way that he carried himself that i reached out to him, and two years later i moved to little rock. and then i guess four years later we got married. and it's just been -- it's my life's work. and i'm surrounded by incredible people who have been helping me. and he's an incredible person. so it's -- what can i say? it's just been -- it's been a journey. >> larry: let's go back a little. you reached out how? what, did you write to him? >> i did. i wrote a letter to him. >> larry: and then he wrote back and you started correspondence? >> he did write back. yes. and we started a correspondence. we wrote to each other. we still write to each other. and we talk on the phone. and i visit him. >> and you -- i loved hearing about how their relationship blossomed. but didn't you used to read the same books -- >> yes. >> -- and talk about them? >> we -- anything we can to be
on the same page with each other, even at the same time. literally, yes. >> larry: good line. >> you know, it's -- it certainly is a challenge. the relationship is a challenge. but, you know, we both work very hard at it, and we have a lot of support. and it's going to be worth it. >> larry: okay. >> when we do get him out. >> larry: when you went down to little rock and moved to little rock, had you fallen in love with him? did you have thoughts that you would want to marry someone who you may never be with? >> yes. over two years of having correspondence with him, i felt very, you know, compelled to move and felt very close to him and -- but i've never thought that i wouldn't touch him or be with him, so that's never been an issue for me. because i've known all along that we're going to get him out. so it's just been -- the thing
for me is i just never knew it was going to take this long. i never knew it would take this long to get him out. that's the sticking point. >> larry: what kind of work do you do in little rock? >> i'm a landscape architect. >> larry: all right. you're talented. you're bright. you're very beautiful. you can have compassion -- you can have the same compassion -- no, you can have the compassion that natalie has and eddie has and dennis has. but why -- and i'm sure everyone would be puzzled by this. why subject yourself to a marriage in which you can't -- you don't touch your husband? >> i don't look at it that way, larry. i look at it as -- i mean, this is -- he's a lovely man. it's a different type of marriage. but i've learned so much from it. and we do actually get to touch. i mean, i get to be with him for a few hours every week. and i know it's not the same as whatever you want to call a normal marriage. but we're closer than most
people i know who are in normal marriages. so, i mean, i -- yes, it's difficult. and yes, i would much rather it be a different situation. but it will be. >> larry: but there are no conjugal visits in arkansas, are there? >> no, there are not. >> larry: we'll be right back. first, more from the voices for justice rally last saturday night. ♪ and this old world must still be spinning around ♪ ♪ i still love you ♪ so close your eyes ♪ you can close your eyes ♪ it's all right ♪ and i don't know no love songs ♪ ♪ and i can't sing the blues anymore ♪
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>> larry: what's death row like? >> not fun. it does what it was designed to do. which is pretty much separate you from all your support systems. tear you away from anything that means anything to you. and keep you there until they're ready to kill you. >> larry: eddie, i guess you can also imagine what it must be like, assuming -- let's say you're damien. what it must be like to be behind bars for something you didn't do. can you put yourself in his shoes? >> well, one thing it brings to mind is that i -- i've realized recently that when i first heard about this case i was in my late 20s, i was 29. and i'm 45 now. i think of all the things that i've done. or if people out there can think of all the things they've done in the last 16 years, what kind of turns their lives have taken and how they've grown as people.
and, you know, after i've gone to visit damien, there are days and stretches an you know, that experience resonates and stays within you. and i think it's one of the reasons i've really tried to do everything i could for the case and stay close with lorri and dennis and everybody involved. because it really -- it's stuck with me. i think about it a lot. and especially sometimes when i'm in open spaces. he's on my shoulder. i'm thinking about him a lot. and what i can tell you, though, larry, is that his development within these incredibly small confines and an atmosphere of, you know, literal hell, he's grown as a person. he's grown intellectually and spiritually. he's a passionate -- he's passionate about learning and
exploring his inner self, and he's -- he's somebody who will -- you know, has taught me and will teach others. he's a really great writer. he's really a tremendous human being. and, you know, these other young men, too, one thing, you talk about details or one of the things that convinced you of their innocence. one thing that's not always talked about is the other two young men who are serving life, jason and jessie, they have, in the past, been offered, you know, some kind of deal to get out early if they went ahead and turned evidence on damien. they haven't done that. they never have. >> larry: yeah. >> and it's hard to imagine that if they had actually done that or something did happen, it's hard to imagine out of self-preservation that these young men at their age wouldn't have done that. >> larry: by the way, there is a website about efforts to secure the release of damien echols,
jason baldwin and jessie misskelley. the address is all one word. freewestmemphis3.org. >> faces from an angry, curious community came to see the teenagers who stand accused of a crime that makes no sense. >> he was guilty when i first laid eyes on him. >> who could do such a thing? to three small boys. >> prosecutors portrayed 19-year-old damien echols as a murderous devil worshiper. >> you begin to see inside damien echols, and you look inside there and there's not a soul in there. >> couldn't be a worst capital murder ever committed in this state that i'm aware of. >> investigators say the suspects aren't the typical boys next door.
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>> larry: another celebrity who's become involved in the case of the west memphis three is johnny depp. at the voices for justice rally saturday night, depp read some passages from damien echols' journal. >> it's been well over 16 years since i've actually walked anywhere. sometimes i still can't wrap my mind around that. i'm working on my 17th year now. there are times when i've thought surely someone is going to put a stop to this. surely someone is going to do something. >> larry: lorri, damien also gave you a special message just for this show. want to share it with us? >> yes, i would. first of all, he wanted to say hello to you. and he wanted to say thank you to everyone out there who supported him and worked hard for him, for all the people who have come to little rock this
weekend. the people around me right now. and all of the other musicians and artists and the people of arkansas who are coming together. but most importantly, he's asking that everyone educate themselves about his case and learn about the new evidence and all of the -- everything that proves his innocence and the innocence of jessie and jason. and that's the most important thing, is just to keep this moving, because he wants to be free. >> larry: eddie, when i interviewed damien, he said that you probably were the greatest friend a person could have through all of this. how do you react to that? >> well, i was watching when he said that. and it wasn't expected, and i was very moved. and i feel like it's something that anybody would have done. you know, what it did for me is
a lot of times -- you know, we've kind of -- kind of been a bit of a silent partner in this case over the years because we didn't think it was going to help their cause, certainly initially, if they heard that, you know, people from -- you know, a rock musician was -- in a rock band were helping them out. that's part of what got him into trouble in the first place was, you know, listening to what some people thought was the wrong music or hard music or loud music or reading books that were, you know, not -- not of the norm. what was the beginning again? >> larry: how do you react to the fact -- >> oh, how did i feel? >> larry: you're on the outside and he's calling you the best friend he has. >> well, i -- to be honest, i told lorri, i said, well, wait until he gets out and he'll see what a -- it's hard for me to keep up as a friend. one of the reasons i'm not as good of a friend --
>> no, go ahead. >> probably one of the reasons i'm not as good a friend with the friends i now have is because i spend so much time on this case and being damien's friend. ♪ oh, such is the passage of time ♪ ♪ too fast to fall ♪ yeah, suddenly swallowed by signs ♪ ♪ lo and behold ♪ going to rise up ♪ find my direction magnetically ♪ ♪ gonna rise up ♪ throw down our ace in the hole ♪ this is unlike any car you've ever seen before.
had to have murdered the three boys. >> terry hobbs. i don't have any problem with saying his name. in my opinion, yes, i believe he is the perpetrator of this crime. >> a recent dna test found hair fibers on one of the victim's shoelaces matched terry hobbs. he was steve branch's stepfather. but the dna wasn't found on stevie's shoelace. hobbs claims it was a casual transfer to one of stevie's friends who spent time at their house. we asked terry hobbs to comment. he declined. but his daughter amanda didn't. >> it makes me sick. it really does. i don't really -- it's just crazy, you know? it's like mark byers has been in these shoes for 14 years, and now he wants to try to put my father in those shoes? >> mark byers was questioned by police shortly after the murders but never declared an official suspect. >> it's the worst nightmare you could ever imagine.
i know the nightmare that the three in prison feel, to be wrongly accused. >> i can say whose dna they found at the crime scene, but i'm hesitant to point the finger at him just because i don't want to do the same thing to someone else that was done to me. >> larry: natalie, you got so involved that in 2008 terry hobbs, the stepfather of one of the murder victims, filed suit against you, claiming you had accused him of the killings. that suit was thrown out of court, and the judge ordered him to pay legal fees. what did you make of all of that? >> that was craziness. and i never expected that. and it seemed out of nowhere. but i have to say it's been awesome. it's been great for the case. and hopefully that gentleman will regret it and everyone else
will benefit from it. i'm a fighter. and bring it on. i'm not scared. when it's -- when i believe wholeheartedly in what i'm doing. and i felt confident in my case in that instance. and i feel confident in dennis' case for these guys. >> larry, i just wanted to comment that that lawsuit was not only an example of natalie's commitment, it's a key in the new evidence that's being developed here. as a result of that, her attorneys in the civil suit were able to depose terry hobbs, who's -- who has -- and there's been dna found at the scene that's consistent with mr. hobbs. he was deposed. he swore he never saw the three boys on that day. and as a result of the publicity around that, independent and
very credible witnesses have come forward who have offered testimony and evidence that the last person who was with these three boys in the minutes before they disappeared was terry hobbs. and that's a piece of evidence that had never been discovered by the investigating authorities, who really didn't look at any other suspects other than these three defendants. so natalie made an enormous contribution by being sued by -- for defamation. >> larry: do the police -- is there any concept where the police could now do a full investigation of mr. hobbs? >> the investigating authorities have said that as far as they're concerned the case is settled and done. >> back when, you know, the initial investigation was going on no -- hardly anybody was interviewed. it took 15 years for, you know, me to get sued and for that element to play into it before
the stepdad of one of the little boys who was horribly killed was even questioned, which -- you know, i watch enough of your show to know that usually the first people interviewed are the people closest to the victims. and that's just one small example of how many things were done poorly in the initial case. >> larry: and nobody likes to admit it. lorri, i understand that members of the family of the victims are kind of split. the mother of one of the victims, stevie branch, has come to believe that the west memphis three were railroaded. she said in an interview earlier this year that arkansas will never admit they made a mistake. now you, as his wife, how do you react when you hear a mother of one of the dead boys, three 8-year-old kids, say that? >> well, i mean, i'm so grateful
to her for doing the research and listening to, you know, the information that's been brought to her. and there's also been another stepfather who has come forward, and also believes that they have the wrong people in prison. and i'm just so grateful to both of them for listening, and i know it had to be hard because this has got to be a very difficult thing to not be able to put to rest for them. so i am just so grateful to them. >> larry: we'll be back with more on this fascinating and tragic case in just a moment. >> 1993, i gave it to god. the first year, god, it was terrible. god had to have watched over me and guided my path and kept me safe. because i was in another world. i was blessed. i thank god for the eight years that i was blessed with my son. i think he was the best.
i'm honored to be called his mother. >> his smile. his laugh. climb up in your lap, give you a big hug, tell you daddy, i love you. see those big brown eyes. >> my sons davey and michael, they were like best buddies. and christopher started tagging along, i guess a couple months before they were murdered. michael was a sharp little guy. he was going to be an undercover drug agent. he showed me his little badge one time and told me he was going to be that when he grew up. i said, all right, you go, michael. ♪ [ male announcer ] your first day. you try to lie low, get the lay of the land. but then autoblog.com calls your interior lexus quiet. and automobile magazine goes comparing you to a cadillac.
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♪ people have the power ♪ people have the power ♪ people have the power >> larry: eddie, you believe the system got it wrong in convicting them. why might you be optimistic that the system is now going to get it right? >> well, i think that's, you know, something that -- anybody who's been involved in this case, we've gotten an education that i don't think we expected. and you certainly don't know -- you see a lot of things that maybe aren't right with our justice system. and making sure, you know, there are some people that don't want dna to be allowed in cases to exonerate people. you -- you see how long this process takes and how long the
appeals process takes and we're talking about -- it's very easy and very inexpensive to convict somebody initially, especially in a rural community where there's no real funds to -- no resources to defend themselves against even a death penalty case. and then to see, you know, 16, 17 years later how much funds, how many experts, how many -- and people that will come along and support them and do activism to keep the case alive. a lot of these cases are taking place where they have no voice. we're very fortunate. joe berlinger made this initial documentary that spurred us all into being part of this. but you have to have faith in the justice system. it's like having faith. it's part of our country. it's part of the fabric of our flag, to believe in justice. and to believe in justice. but injustice does take place
and those are the things that you want to, in this case, in particular -- you know, the further it goes and it's very complex. but now we're at a point where it seems very, very clear. we're asking that the arkansas supreme court just accepts this well-prepared case and argument andnds that now is the time. they have a chance to make it right. >> natalie, are any of you, natalie, eddie, or lorri, met with any of the victims' families? >> well, i have not. i think i am going to get to meet some people today, which i look forward to. i think lorri knows them all. >> right. i haven't met the parents of michael moore, but i've met stevie branch's mother and chris byers' father, yes. >> larry: we have limited time
here, dennis. without going into wide and varied tangents, your key oral argument is? >> that the state of arkansas passed dna statute precisely to permit a way for people that had been wrongly convicted to overturn their convictions, even after appeal, that the dna evidence in this case, none of it links any of these defendants to the crime. there is dna evidence that points in another direction. that their each supposed building block of the state's case, each part of it has been eroded by new evidence. the notion that a knife was used in this case has been completely refuted. every component of the state's case has been eroded by the new evidence. we meet the legal standard which is if these defendants were tried today, no reasonable jury would return a conviction.
>> have you called in, dennis, any of the people with the innocence project to aid you? >> oh, sure. the original testing, dna testing, barry sheck of the innocence project was critical in setting up the original testing. in fact, in our arguments on the 30th, the northwestern innocence project has submitted a brief amicus curiae, demonstrating that in most of these wrongful conviction cases you have either a false confession by a mentally handicapped juvenile or phony expert testimony or wrongful eyewitness testimony. and what they've demonstrated and we've demonstrated is this is the perfect storm of all of those factors. every factor which can lead to a false and wonderful conviction was present in this case. >> larry: we'll be right back with more from eddie, lorri and natalie, right after this.
>> we, the jury, find damien echols guilty of capital murder. >> with all the questions surrounding it, we wondered what the factors were that led to the conviction of the west memphis three in 1994. our efforts to get comments from the original prosecutor, judge and chief investigator were unsuccessful. >> please state your name for the court. >> damien wayne echols. >> reporter: most would agree that damien echols' decision to take the stand in his defense was a disaster. >> i believe every person has a good side and bad side. >> kelly's on-tape confession made his conviction a virtual certainty. >> when i was there, i saw damien hit this one, hit this one boy real bad and then he started screwing him and stuff. >> many still believe the jury got it right. diana moore, mother of victim michael moore, is one of those. since the convictions, the media has made it a point to make this case all about the convicted. i would like to take this opportunity to remind people that three innocent 8-year-old
children were brutally murdered and these three men were convicted on the evidence presented to 24, in total, juror members that voted unanimously to convict. my little boy died that day. i'm his mother and wish to say that the public remains ignorant about what happened in court, primarily as a result of the "paradise lost" films and the writing of mara leveritt. my voice is small compared to theirs but i believe more relevant. they weren't there during the trials and they didn't lose anybody. i lost everything and not a day goes by that i don't mourn for michael. the public should think about that before they cast their lot with eddie vedder and natalie maines. the prosecutor gave us this statement. be assured we take the utmost care in handling the appeals of death sentences handed down by arkansas jurors. we are committed to fairness and
justice not just for the three inmates but also for the three little boys who didn't live to see middle school. for the worst allergies i want a product with the best decongestant. my choice is clear. claritin-d. nothing works stronger, faster or longer for allergy congestion relief without drowsiness. get claritin-d at the pharmacy counter. live claritin clear.
>> larry: lorri, are you -- how would you describe it? are you confident, optimistic, hopeful? what's going to happen? >> i am absolutely positive that we will get these three out of prison. i would like to see the state of arkansas overturn these convictions, because that's where it happened and it's there -- it's their duty to do the right thing. so i would like to see it happen, start happening on september 30th. >> can i just say, too, larry, i think that people who see us up here, you know, with our cause look at how long it's been and how many -- i don't know if they've been official appeals or all the processes that it has gone through. i think you think -- well, i mean, a lot of people have looked at this and so what's the
other side? what did convict these guys? they're still sitting there. so, i think that they probably would, you know, have some doubt. but that's what's so crazy. it's not there. there isn't, and it shouldn't be still going on, because it's very obvious. it's not that complicated. it's a lot of material and it's gone on a lot of time but it's not complicated. >> larry: eddie, it must also bug you to know, to know in your heart that the real killer or killers are loose. >> well, it's -- you know, there's an irony that there's three young kids were initially lost to this horrific crime and then 16 years later, you know, we've got this other injustice happening. and in the meantime, it seems
like there is somebody out there in the community that was -- you know, this must have been done by somebody else. and there were certain leads that weren't followed up immediately after the crime took place and before they picked up our guys. people with talking about blood on their hands. he was in a restaurant called bojangles. he went into the bathroom and left blood all over it. the people that worked at the restaurant weren't even interrogated, i believe. >> well, the blood evidence was taken and lost. >> larry: what a tragedy. >> oh, yeah. lots of lost evidence. >> johnny depp is also involved in this, held a rally for the west memphis three in little rock. it is a website about efforts to secure the release of damien echols, jason bolen and jesse ke